The Unusual New Lifetime of Vaccine Websites

The Strange New Life of Vaccine Sites

A little over a year ago the streets were emptied and shops closed. The emptying was an act of mutual self-preservation on a planetary level. Images of cleared parks and squares, sports stadiums and theaters, museums and shopping malls captured the sudden terror of the pandemic.

But they also captured something else: hope.

Moorestown Mall in Moorestown, N.J.

American Museum of Natural History, Manhattan

Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

Otherworldly and deeply alarming, the sight of Place de la Concorde and Times Square devoid of people was also mankind's best attempt to fight a crisis at a time when we knew little about the virus and vaccines seemed years away at best. This effort required separate paths. In short, we came together to face adversity by essentially doing the opposite:
leaving common spaces which, when we actively occupy them, are usually a signal that society is functioning.

Former JCPenney at Poughkeepsie Galleria, N.Y.

These places are mirrors. We build them. They measure us. Now, a year after we left these parking lots, shopping malls, sports arenas, and other locations in the United States, dozens of them have been requested as temporary vaccination centers.

A defunct Circuit City in Dartmouth, Massachusetts was reborn.

Former Circuit City in Dartmouth, Mass.

A theater in Philadelphia that has been dark for months from the pandemic draws crowds every day – for vaccines.

Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia

Photos of these places look no less surreal than the pictures of empty places from last year. Their message is similar: like all crises, the pandemic is an opportunity. In the old days, trying to eliminate a single roadside parking lot in New York City, for example, sparked endless government hearings and costly litigation. Then Covid-19 arrived. Restaurants closed. Confiscated residents in cramped apartments. The demand for outdoor restaurants and more places for people to get some fresh air became urgent and evident.

M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore

In response, the town hall cleared around 12,000 parking spaces and pedestrian zones from streets overnight. Hundreds of companies received a lifeline. Sidewalks in Flushing and Red Hook suddenly conjured up scenes in Paris and Rome. Though officials were noticeably less able to maintain the open streets, the first act of reconfiguration was evidence that change can happen – that we can restart quickly and to scale if we have the will and a little imagination.

Where to start A race track in Queens can be used to help thousands escape the virus with a vaccine.

Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, N.Y.

A Six Flags America in Maryland can make people feel safer.

Six Flags of America in Bowie, Md.

The Natural History Museum in Manhattan can use its popular life-size blue whale model to seduce vaccine recipients.

American Museum of Natural History, Manhattan

Can we think bigger How about turning some of those older office towers that were mothballed during the pandemic into much-needed, mixed-income homes? Now is the time to finally fix our rundown public transit hubs, open more bridges for cyclists and pedestrians, and create more parks and squares, especially in underserved neighborhoods, as these features are beneficial to the physical and mental health of New Yorkers were indispensable.

Moorestown Mall in Moorestown, N.J.

Who would have thought a year ago that by this time billions around the world would be calling for vaccines while the United States grappling with raids? The barriers to progress can still seem insurmountable – which is why these photos are educational too. They tell a different story.

We have met before, they remind us. We can think differently.

A dead mall can be a lifesaver.

Former Circuit City in Dartmouth, Mass.

Surfacing is a weekly column that explores the intersection of art and life.

Produced by Alicia DeSantis, Jolie Ruben and Tala Safie.

Note: The M&T Bank Stadium Bulky Inoculation Site is a partnership of the University of Maryland Medical Systems, the Maryland Department of Health, the Maryland National Guard, and the Maryland Stadium Authority.


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